I love Beliefnet’s gallery of Memorable Movie Nuns from Paul Asay. He includes some of my favorites like Lilies of the Field, with Sidney Poitier building a chapel under the direction of flinty Lilia Skala and Susan Sarandon as real-life Sister Helen Prejean, who befriends a condemned prisoner played by Sean Penn in Dead Man Walking.
I would add to his list Come to the Stable, with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm as gentle nuns who hope to build a hospital. And of course there’s Debbie Reynolds as the spirited Singing Nun, a nun whose shoes provide a clue in The Lady Vanishes, and the sisters of Black Narcissus, who find unexpected challenges when they establish a new order on top of the Himalayas.
The best news since the settlement of the lawsuit that permits “The Watchmen” to open as scheduled on March 6 is the availability of these new extras and goodies.
Check out the Watchmen’s YouTube channel, too.
The rare sequel that improves on the original, “Madagascar 2” keeps the silliness and steps up the heart. In the first film, four zoo animals run away and after a series of adventures are sent to live in an African wildlife refuge. Alex the pampered city lion (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra who longs for the veldt (voice of Chris Rock), Melman the hypochondriac giraffe (voice of David Schwimmer), and Gloria, the warm-hearted hippo (voice of Jada Pinkett Smith) are still, so to speak, fish out of water when it comes to living in the wild. Alex especially is eager to get back home. But their plane, piloted by ditsy penguins, crashes and they find themselves again in the wilderness.
But this time, it feels like home. Alex is reunited with the parents he barely remembers (voices of Bernie Mac and Sherri Shepherd). Marty is overjoyed to be at last among his own kind with a herd of zebras. Gloria wants to settle down with a mate and is delighted to see some handsome hippos as possible prospects. And Melman’s expertise with medical treatment gets him dubbed the new witch doctor. He is able to save the life of a young giraffe by setting his broken leg.
But a rival for the “alpha lion” position (voice of Alec Baldwin) tricks Alex’s father into forcing Alex to fight and banishing him when he loses. Marty finds that while the other zebras may look and act exactly like him, he misses his best friend. Melman tries to find a way to tell Gloria how much he cares for her. And Alex has to find a way to be true to himself as a lion and as a New Yorker.
While there is nothing as tone-deaf as the first film’s focus on whether Alex would eat his best friend, there are still a few clangers. Though gently handled, part of the plot concerns a character’s offer to sacrifice himself by jumping into lava because some of the animals believe it will appease the gods and restore their water supply. A cub is captured by poachers and his father is shot (minor injury). A feisty elderly woman’s fistfights are intended to be humorous. There is nothing especially new here. But it is funny and colorful and even a little bit sweet and you gotta love those nutty penguins.
And I am also a very big fan of libraries. I am always inspired by the dedication and generosity of the people who work there. My sister is a librarian and she once took me to the annual American Library Association. I was dazzled by the programs and displays.
So I was thrilled to hear that Walden Media is sponsoring a sweepstakes through March 31 to attend this year’s ALA conference in Chicago this July. And it was a very great pleasure to speak to two of the people involved, Chip Flaherty from Walden Media and Sarah Debrasky, the president of the ALA’s Young Adult Library Services Association.
Chip Flaherty spoke to me about Walden’s interest in the books that inspire their films.
This is yet another initiative that goes back to how Walden came about. We looked at the state of media years ago and really thought that educators – moms and dads or teachers and librarians, were an under-served audience. We thought it would be great to give them a tool to help get kids excited about reading.
The name Walden was inspired by Thoreau, who learned about the world around him in an unconventional way. We make faithful adaptations of quality books and put them on the screen. We hear a lot of great ideas from teachers and librarians. And we began to understand the challenges they face. Working with them is a natural progression of what we tried to do on the film side, to serve that under-served audience. They have the most important job in American, shaping the trajectory of children’s lives.
We thought by offering this sweepstakes it would give a librarian something they would not otherwise get to do, a chance to talk to colleagues to exchange ideas and make new contacts. And it frees up those budget resources to buy books and do other things.
It is so important. Teachers and librarians are always performing in front of 30 kids, trying to connect, always needing to engage. But it can be a lonely profession in terms of collegiality. It is important to attend the ALA meeting for collegial reflection, a chance to sit down and share experiences and get support.
We are very diligent about reminding kids that our films are based on great books. If kids connect to the story, it’s not a zero sum game. I would argue that it’s more immersive to have all of these formats. Any publishing house will tell you the best promotion for a book is a movie. We do what we can to support teachers and librarians on our website with lesson plans for our films. It’s almost a cyber-faculty lounge. If kids are engaged in the story they want to consume it in all formats.
Sarah Debrasky also emphasized the importance of the ALA conference.
The conference is a huge event; it really is the place to go if you’re a librarian. The best thing about it is you will come away excited about your profession, full of new ideas. Not everything gets put into a big program, some idea shares are less formal. There is something for everyone, programs, events, all very exciting. They get around 20,000 people.
As the incoming President, I am very excited about engaging the Young Adult Library Services Association community with more give and take back and forth, getting more members involved who can’t come to the conferences. We’ll also continue with our awards and booklists to help every young adult find just the right book.
In times of tight budgets one of the first things that gets cut is travel. It is wonderful that Walden is making it possible for a librarian to be there who might not otherwise get to come.